Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 11 News List

NBA Playoffs: Westbrook’s heroics carry Thunder to 115-113 win

AFP, LOS ANGELES

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, right, shoots over the Houston Rockets’ James Harden, left, and Trevor Ariza in the third quarter of their NBA first-round playoff series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Friday.

Photo: AP

Russell Westbrook’s latest triple-double came with plenty of help from his teammates and translated into a 115-113 NBA playoff victory for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.

It was a win the Thunder desperately needed after falling to 0-2 in their Western Conference first-round series against the Houston Rockets.

That included a disheartening defeat on Wednesday, when Westbrook posted a triple-double that included 51 points, but was criticized for a fourth quarter in which he made just four of 18 shots.

“I had to do a better job of trusting my teammates for 48 minutes,” Westbrook said. “Today those guys made plays throughout the whole game and that’s what I tried to do.”

Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan called Westbrook’s effort “unbelievable.”

“He got guys shots,” Donovan said. “He took advantage when they switched. He did a lot of different things. He played an exceptional game.”

Westbrook, who notched a record 42 regular-season triple-doubles, on Friday finished with 32 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds.

It was not perfect. His second missed free throw of the closing seconds kept the door open for the Rockets, whose star James Harden was off-target with a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Harden had hit a three-pointer with 52 seconds remaining that knotted the score at 111-111.

Westbrook responded with his first three-point attempt of the game. It rattled off the rim, but teammate Steven Adams managed to put it back for two points and the lead.

The teams then traded free-throw attempts until Harden’s final effort. When it bounced off the backboard, Westbrook was there to bat the ball away.

“I just wanted to get the best shot available,” said Harden, who finished with 44 points, but missed two three-pointers in the final 15 seconds.

It was not those miscues, but the Rockets’ slow start in the face of an early Thunder blitz, that determined the game, Harden said.

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